Sunday was an interesting day in Barcelona, it was the day before Mobile World Congress officially opened its doors and yet we saw Huawei, HTC and Samsung – in that order – announce big products for the year ahead. Each year, there are a few things that you can count on during Mobile World Congress; one is that big names like HTC, Samsung and Sony make a lot of noise and another is that Chinese manufacturers try their best to get themselves noticed. Huawei have managed to get themselves noticed in a big way this year, and for a reason you wouldn’t expect for a second. This year, Huawei introduced one of the best-looking smartwatches we’ve ever seen.
How Huawei did such a thing is surprising in and of itself, but this is no accident on their part. The Huawei Watch might be their first Android Wear smartwatch, but it looks far more refined than that. The Verge got the chance to spend some time with Richard Yu, head of Huawei’s consumer division and Ben Norton, designer of Huawei’s new timepiece. There’s a reason this looks more refined than a first attempt, Ben Norton used to design watches for the likes of Fossil and branded pieces for Emporio Armani. Talking about the Huawei Watch Norton says he “had this opportunity to start designing smartwatches, and had a vision shared by many of my colleagues to have a smartwatch that was very much like a traditional watch. We just believe that the consumer wants an actual watch that feels like a watch.” This “watch first, gadget second” way of looking things is what made the Moto 360 so popular, and it looks like Huawei have managed to perfect that idea.
Anyone familiar with Huawei’s history at trade shows like MWC will know that Mr Yu pulls no punches. Talking of Samsung and their watches he says that “Samsung already launched its watch, but the design was ugly and no one wanted to buy it.” Clearly, Mr Yu hasn’t seen recent figures, but he does have a point; not everyone wants another gadget on their person. Norton clearly gets that these devices are going to be worn by many different users and says that the Watch is something “you could wear with a tuxedo or a t-shirt” and that it’s aimed very much at the “typical consumer”.
This ‘typical consumer’ seems exactly the type of person that Huawei wants to focus on going forward. Rather than appealing to just the Chinese market and consumers in the West that are savvy enough to research before they make a purchase and see past the Chinese branding, Huawei wants to become ‘cool’. Yu says that “we’re trying to make Huawei a more fashionable brand” and the Watch is just the beginning for them. Device launches like the Ascend P line that have focused on the European market for some time are often sleek, good-looking smartphones any consumer would be happy with. Their challenge now is to become more than just “that Chinese brand, Huawei” and just “Huawei”.